Medical records are some of the most important documents in a mass torts case. They often contain the crucial evidence we need that a client’s injuries have been caused by a defective product, like a prescription drug. However, because medical records are well protected under federal and state privacy laws, the process of obtaining them can be long and complicated. We’re going to break down the various steps we go through to obtain these vital documents so our clients can have a better understanding of what we’re doing on their behalf.
The process begins when we have completed the initial case review and received your contract, questionnaire, and authorizations. Authorizations include a medical and work records release that gives us the ability to request medical records from the doctors and hospitals you visited while obtaining a diagnosis and treatment for your injuries. Sometimes, when these documents are filled out electronically, we must specially request you sign the hard copy of the authorization because certain facilities require a “wet ink” authorization instead of an electronic signature.
Once we have the proper authorizations, we work with a third-party service to order and obtain the relevant records. We work with this service to gather the records from various facilities and sometimes, various time frames throughout a client’s life. Because these records can be extensive and often come in from several offices and hospitals across the country, this is the longest part of the process. Some records can take several months to come in after the initial order. Because of this, it is often also the most frustrating part of the process for clients, who can feel like they are in limbo, waiting to see if and how their case will progress. We understand their frustration and we do our best to make sure they are aware of the uncertain time frame of this process.
Once we’ve received the records, they are processed and sent on to our medical expert, who reviews them and sends findings on to the team of attorneys and paralegals handling the litigation. If, for whatever reason, we find that we cannot continue to pursue the case on the client’s behalf, we inform the client of this and let them know about what other options they have to move forward. If we decide to continue pursuing the claim, we then prepare to file the claim in accordance with the statute of limitations. Please see our Mass Torts 101 piece on statutes for more information about when we file each person’s case that we receive.
That’s it for medical records! Stay tuned for the next edition of Mass Torts 101, in which we will discuss bellwether cases and how they help determine the fate of a litigation.